The North Germanic Languages are a group of Germanic languages spoken in parts of Northern Europe. These languages may be further split into East and West, although there is some dispute over which North Germanic Languages belong in which category. The language family includes Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Faroese, and Icelandic, languages which have many commonalities with each other. Altogether, millions of people speak at least one North Germanic Language.
These languages are derived from Old Norse, a language which delineated into several dialects which eventually became their own languages by the middle of the 14th century. Old Norse was widely spoken across Scandinavia, with Icelandic being the closest living language to Old Norse. Faroese is also thought to be very similar to Old Norse, with a collective community of around 70,000 speakers in the Faroe Islands and parts of Norway. The Faroe Islands were at one point under the close control of Denmark, and traces of this can be seen in the evolution of Faroese.
In contrast with the relatively small Icelandic and Faroese speaking communities, there are around five million speakers of Norwegian in Norway and in communities abroad. Norwegian actually has two written forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål is closely related to Danish, reflecting the fact that Danish was the official language of Norway until the 1800s. Nynorsk was developed in the 1800s by Ivar Aasen, in an attempt to clearly differentiate Norwegian from Danish. This was part of a larger movement to reclaim Norwegian language traditions, and it has been a topic of much discussion and debate within Norway itself; currently, the majority of Norwegian speakers use written Bokmål.
Around six million people speak Danish, which is considered to be mutually intelligible with both Norwegian and Swedish, meaning that speakers of these languages can usually understand each other with minimal effort. This illustrates the close relationship between the North Germanic Languages and the cultures which speak them. Danish also includes several individual regional dialects. Swedish is the largest of the North Germanic Languages, with almost 10 million speakers and a number of major dialects.
The North Germanic Languages may also be referred to as the Scandinavian or Norse languages. Incidentally, they are related to English, which is also a Germanic language. This explains why English has many words in commonality with Norse languages, although some of these words are “false friends,” meaning that although they sound the same, they have different meanings.